ARC Review: Highland Spy by Madeline Martin

img_9289Title: Highland Spy (Mercenary Maidens, #1)

Author: Madeline Martin

Publisher: Diversion Publishing

Expected Publishing Date: January 10, 2017

Genre: Historical, Romance

Format: eBook, Paperback

Page Count: 358

Rating: 3- Stars



In the first of a new Scottish Historical Romance series by Madeline Martin, a young woman on the edge of ruin finds redemption as a spy in the court of James I. Perfect for fans of Monica McCarty.

Ariana Fitzroy has lost her family and her fortune. The fight for survival leads her to the shadowed card games of court where she discovers she has quite a talent for slipping cards into her favor. While the winnings are enough to sustain her at present, they will not last forever…

Connor Grant, trainer of the fallen women from the English court and personal assassin to the king, is just as broken as the women he trains. After losing his own land and all his people in a brutal attack from a trusted friend, he has no choice but to rebuild any way he sees possible—even if it means going against everything he’s ever believed in.

After catching Ariana cheating at cards, Connor has a new trainee to instruct at one of the king’s many confiscated castles. In the dilapidated ruins, he discovers Ariana is more than she appears and falls in love with her incredible tenacity and dedication—a love that is challenged by Connor’s chance at reclaiming the inheritance he once lost and has sought so desperately to regain.

This story is one of second chances, of realizing a strength where only hopelessness once resided—a story of rising above the bad hand one has been dealt into a life of accomplishment and love.

♦ Personal Thought ♦

This is my first Madeline Martin books and I grabbed it not only because the promise of man in kilt, but …women spies in the highland? The last I read this kind of story was Monica McCarty‘s The Ghost, so I really curious to figure this one.

Highland Spy set in early 1605 England with King James on the throne. Connor Grant, heir to fallen Urquhart castle was tasked to recruit and train fallen women of the court and be spies for the crown.

The web of women spies here were totally different from Lauren Willig‘s Pink Carnation series, other than time period. Here, the fallen women deliberately being gathered and trained necessary skills like-hand-to-hand combat, lock-picking, seduction, sword fighting and so on. The women had murky background, one even escaping death and massacre. Barely. This is what initially pulled me into the story. The lady recruited on this first entry to The Mercenary Maidens was Ariana Fitzroy, who he caught cheating on cards. I like her spirit; how she stood up to make most of impossible situation and – once joining the maiden warrior – her blossoming into one kick-ass heroine.

Although, I questioned the speed with which these girls learned their new trade. Even male warriors – from books I read before – took longer than these girls to be on their peak of condition. With fighting being new to some of these girls, it really felt a few months was miraculous for them to master the skills. Perhaps it’s the willpower that boost those abilities. *shrugs*

Again, at first I love the suppressed attractions between Ariana and Connor. With the positions they were in, to be involved might jeopardize their work. Although of course I also quietly cheering them to somehow take that step. Alas. When feeling crushed and heartbroken our heroine planned to escape the brethren. A trained spy. Flee when feeling slighted. Boo!!! There went my admiration to our heroine. No matter that twist in the plot opened new path to Connor’s past, that weakness and the reason behind it just feel very anti-kick-ass to me.

And the rest went downhill from there. The reveal of the true villains, the escape plan, the unexpected help …these all quite predicted, sure. But the delivery of the whole things were just too rushed. Never mind sudden declaration of love.

As intro to a new series, this book left much courses to explore for its next installment which each – I’m sure – would feature the maiden spy on center stage. Which was why I take a wait-and-see stand for this series. That saying, I wasn’t too impressed with the story and the characters as I expected.

Advanced copy of this book is kindly provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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